'He would have been fighting tooth and nail for this' - daughter of the 'Rottweiler of Whitnash' who died from Covid-19 campaigns for a public inquiry

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Former mayor Bernard Kirton died in hospital aged 84 after contracting coronavirus

The daughter of an outspoken former councillor from Whitnash who died from Covid-19 has said that he would have been fighting ‘tooth and nail’ for a public inquiry into the way the Government has handled the pandemic.

Fiona Kirton is campaigning in memory of Bernard Kirton, a former mayor of Whitnash who died in hospital aged 84 after contracting coronavirus.

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Fiona, 60, is calling for the judge-led inquiry into the Government’s response to the crisis as a member of Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice.

Former mayor Bernard Kirton died in hospital aged 84 after contracting coronavirus.Former mayor Bernard Kirton died in hospital aged 84 after contracting coronavirus.
Former mayor Bernard Kirton died in hospital aged 84 after contracting coronavirus.

Boris Johnson has declined to meet the group and while he has promised a review will take place, he has not set a specific date.

But on Thursday (January 10) a cross-party House of Commons committee said an inquiry must take place by January.

Fiona, from Somerset, said: "He had earned the nickname ‘The Rottweiler of Whitnash’ due to his dogged pursuit of those in power, ranging from the county council to Sir Richard Branson.

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Talking about a possibly public inquiry, she added: "My dad would have wanted this done."

Fiona believes her father's death on April 7 was preventable after he was initially taken into Warwick Hospital following a fall at his home.

A care home had provisionally accepted him on condition that he took a coronavirus test, but she claims the hospital would not carry out the procedure at the time.

"I’m doing this in my dad’s memory,’ Fiona said.

"We didn’t agree on many things but he would have been apoplectic if this had happened to one of his constituents.

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"He would have fought tooth and nail for cross-party support for an independent, statutory inquiry with a powerful judge who can gather all the evidence really quickly.

"He would have wanted that done yesterday, to save lives.

"He would have said 'shove the party politics and get on with it'."

The campaign, which represents more than 1,800 families who have suffered bereavements due to Covid-19, wants a statutory inquiry to take place on the same time-scale as the Taylor Review, which reported back in 11 weeks after the Hillsborough Disaster in 1989.

Fiona said: ‘My dad went into hospital after a fall and I had found a really good care home that had agreed to take him, but only if he took a test.

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"The hospital refused to test him on discharge, even though I pushed really hard.

"Then it took another two weeks to get him into another care home and in his first hours there his temperature went up, so he obviously caught it on a ward.

"He then had another fall and was readmitted to hospital.

“He died on April 7 and we couldn’t see him or speak to him because of visiting restrictions and because he needed new hearing aids, which they couldn’t fit because of Covid.

"The nurses who looked after dad were wonderful and kept us informed over the phone.

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"I cannot fault them, but the bottom line is he shouldn’t have caught the virus in the first place.

"My last memory of him is when I phoned him and a nurse held the phone to his ear, he couldn’t hear me properly and he was shouting ‘get me out of here’, they were the last words I heard him say.

"I wish now I’d driven up from Somerset to get him out of there.’

Fiona added that other bereaved families also have lessons that need to be learnt to save lives in the future, including problems using the 111 system, which one family who pleaded for help eventually found out was non-existent in their area.

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A Government spokesman said: "This has been an unprecedented global outbreak and the Government has acted to protect lives, incomes and the most vulnerable in our society.

"As the Prime Minister has said, in the future there will be an opportunity for us to look back, to reflect and to learn some profound lessons.

"But at the moment, the most important thing to do is to focus on responding to the current situation and that’s exactly what we’re doing."

A spokesperson for South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust said: “We offer our sincere condolences to the family of Mr Kirton during this difficult time.

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“At the time of Mr Kirton's admission, the protocol for coronavirus was to test only symptomatic patients, the Trust followed this protocol. Care homes were taking discharged patients without having a COVID test in the first months of the coronavirus outbreak.

“Whilst it’s impossible to confirm whether this was a hospital acquired case, we have great sympathy for Mr Kirton's family. We also very much appreciate their positive feedback about his treatment and care provided by our staff.”

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